George Will’s Irrepressible Conflict With Facts

Conservative columnist George Will was recently in Israel. His trip resulted in a series of laughably error-laden columns revealing not only a crude view of the Israel-Palestine conflict and obsequious admiration for Bibi Netanyahu, but a lack of knowledge about major historical events in his own country.

In his third column, Will begins his mutilation of history in a passage about the Peel Commission. He wrote:

In 1936, when the British administered Palestine, the Peel Commission concluded that there was “an irrepressible conflict” — a phrase coined by an American historian to describe the U.S. Civil War — “between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country.” And: “Neither of the two national ideals permits” a combination “in the service of a single state.” The commission recommended “a surgical operation” — partition. What followed was the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939.

Asad Abukhalil has already nailed Will for getting the date of the Peel Commission report wrong. It was 1937, not 1936. And the Arab Revolt broke out in Palestine before the Peel Commission introduced its findings. I would also add that David Ben Gurion privately accepted the Peel Commission’s recommendations because he saw them as the basis for a later partition that would gift the Zionist settler minority with major port cities like Jaffa and Haifa and throw the Palestinian Arabs back to the hinterlands. Moshe Sharett, a future prime minister of Israel, remarked about the Peel Commission, “the [Palestinian] Arab reaction would be negative because they would lose everything and gain almost nothing ….”

George Will had a horrible run in Israel. Luckily for him, the Washington Post does not correct errors if they are "pro-Israel"

George Will had a horrible run in Israel. Luckily for him, the Washington Post does not correct errors if they advance Israeli hasbara

But leaving his distortions about the Arab Revolt aside, Will made a major error and has not been compelled to correct it. This proves the point Abukhalil makes again and again: “in the US, you can say anything about the Middle East provided it is done from a pro-Israeli perspective.”

In the same passage, the Princeton PhD made another huge error, attributing the phrase “irrepressible conflict” to an unnamed “American historian.” I don’t know where Will got his citation from (some Wikipedia entry?) but it did not reflect well on his claim to expertise on American politics. Even amateur scholars of the Civil War know that the phrase was coined by then-Senator William Seward in his famous speech in 1858.

Will’s tendency to err and distort was also on bold display in his first column from Israel, a boot-licking ode to the leadership qualities of Netanyahu. In the column, Will repeated a widely discredited tale that Netanyahu first told at AIPAC:

Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu’s office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old — 200 years younger than Jerusalem’s role as the Jewish people’s capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

What is Bibi Netanyahu’s connection to the ring, and by extension, to the ancient land of Israel? There is none. His father, Benzion, changed his name from Milikovsky to Netanyahu after he emigrated from Lithuania to Palestine. Thus Bibi has  a much closer relation to Sarah Palin, whose Lithuanian maternal grandfather was rumored to be a Jew, than to any late Bronze Age “Jewish official” from the Middle East.

To understand the sheer insanity of Netanyahu’s magical ring story, consider how I would be received if my grandfather, Hymie Blumenthal, changed his name to Hymie Quetzalcoatl, then I asserted a historical mandate to rule over Mexico because Quetzalcoatl was a diety of the inhabitants of the ancient Toltec city of Teotihuacan. I would have a hard time being taken as seriously as David Koresh or the Unabomber.

Was Bibi’s magical ring tale inspired by Wagner?

Perhaps Bibi’s tall tale was inspired Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen, an opera about a magic ring fashioned by a dwarf that grants its bearer the power to rule the world. In the opera, Bibi is Siegfried, the megalomaniacal son of Wotan who wages in a destructive conflict for the right to wear the ring. And Will is the opera critic who writes a review of the fictional performance as though it were a real life historical event.

14 thoughts on “George Will’s Irrepressible Conflict With Facts

  1. jb4362

    Thank you for nailing the pompous, psuedo-intellectual bastard. Why do people continue to read him?

  2. Evan Ravitz

    Will also attacked Sen. Mike Gravel’s National Ballot Initiative proposal in his book Democracy Derailed. He later admitted he’d never read the proposal! You can at my site http://Vote.org/ Will is the “dean of Washington columnists”??? Pathetic!

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  4. James North

    Excellent post, Max. Some years ago, Garry Trudeau caricatured George Will in Doonesbury as employing someone called “the quote boy,” an assistant who would dig up pretentious quotes to give weight to Will’s pedestrian thoughts. Clearly, the quote boy did not accompany Will on his jaunt to Israel.
    Your comparison of your grandfather with the Aztec deity is brilliant and hilarious.

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  6. lareineblanche

    Brilliant once again, Max, the Wagner brought it over the top, providing an
    appropriately bombastic and absurd soundtrack to the whole story.
    Would he “kiss the ring” if Bibi donned it?

    One detail : the link given on the “ISRAPUNDIT” site for the Palin story
    itself links to what seems to be a frankly anti-semitic blog – maybe this is
    part of your point, that the two family “genealogies” are surely equally
    bogus?

    OT :
    In the “FEEL THE HATE” excerpt you put on the site here, it’s strange to see
    how much some of the Israeli youth has been lured into a sort of far-right
    “frontier mentality”, exactly resembling its American counterpart, the
    disgruntled Tea-baggers and their dangerous proto-racism – and the
    politicians who are cashing in on it. Kudos for seeing the parallels between
    the two communities.
    @ 0:27 “Anyone who wants to take my gun rights away is an asshole. He’s an
    asshole and deserves to get shot” ….. yikes

  7. eshatter

    Oh, the horror, the horror. A super Zionist like Bibi couldn’t possibly be
    listening to Wagner. His music still arouses great controversy in Israel.
    Some years ago Daniel Barenboim conducted a piece by Wagner at a
    concert in Israel and invited members of the audience to stay afterwards
    and talk about it. Apparently, emotions were quite heated.

  8. Pingback: ‘Israel was attacked in ‘47? and other howlers from the pen of George Will « band annie’s Weblog

  9. walt kovacs

    hey max,

    do you believe that you are a decedent of the khazar nation? because that would explain alot

    hate to tell you this…but dna testing proves that bibi indeed has a direct connection to that ring

    you may not…but he does

    and as ones being a jew comes from one’s mother…not father…no, bibi has little connection to palin as palin’s mother is definitely not jewish….but you dont believe that any jew from europe is truly a jew…do ya?

    and max and his comrades wonder why we label them self hating…..hmmmmm

    by the way max….the peel commission was held from 36-37….and while the revolt started before the report was released, it did indeed get worse subsequent to the report

    need to work on your gotchyas

  10. DICKERSON3870

    A few months ago, George Will piously declared on a TV program (probably ABC’s “This Week…”) that since the Congress has voted to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and environs has been recognized by U.S. law and the Obama Administration has no right to object to new settlement construction there (lol). I wonder where he got his law degree, Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University?

  11. lysias

    In Wagner, Siegfried was the son of the siblings Siegmund and Sieglinde. They were ultimately descended from Wotan, but I don’t know how many generations were in between.

  12. lysias

    Checking on the Web, I see Wotan, under the name Wälse, was the father of Siegmund and Sieglinde, at least in Wagner. I have yet to determine who their mother was.

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